When the future goes contactless!

“Contactless” NFC (Near Field Communication) technology is already used extensively in access badges and travel passes. And it will be used in many more applications in coming years. Morpho NFC Product Manager Cyril Caillaud explains.

What is NFC technology and where can it be used?
This technology makes it possible for a reader and a mobile device with an ad-hoc electronic chip to exchange data using radiofrequency across distances between 0 and 5 cm.

These systems are used the most on public transport. This is the case, for example, in Greater Paris, where nearly five million people are already using this technology to travel around. Travelers can unlock turnstiles without taking their cards out of their pockets or bags. They are also being used to greater or lesser extents on a variety of other applications such as ticketing, interactive booths, ski lifts, dispensers, discount coupons, to read product-related information (price, ingredients, allergy warnings, etc.) and more.

But smartphones will be ushering in the NFC revolution over years to come: the next-generation handsets will come with built-in NFC chips. They will not only allow two devices to exchange business cards or synchronize contacts: people will also be able to use their cell phones to pay for purchases in stores, take buses or trains, enter company buildings, and so forth. With NFC SIM cards, security is ensured: the embedded encoding systems will provide maximum safety levels.

What are the differences with the other contactless communication systems?
Like RFID[1] technology, NFC enables information exchanges over very short distances (5 to 10 cm maximum). The main difference is that RFID technology is used for automatic object identification via small passive chips that store data, whereas NFC can be used to read RFID labels or, in read-only mode, to pay for purchases or check transport passes.

Unlike Bluetooth, NFC connects to compatible devices very fast, even though the data flow is slower. The short transmission distance means that the system does not interfere with other nearby terminals – which could happen with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi as they can reach 100 m.

Why is there so much at stake for Morpho with NFC technology?
Because this technology is a particularly good fit for the added value that Morpho solutions involving identification and secure data exchanges provide for customers. Morpho has been actively involved in efforts to build the associated ISO standard since NFC technology first appeared, about a decade ago, and we have had specialists working on this system for many years.
Our in-depth NFC expertise has put us in a position to develop a secure SIM card for this technology. And that is not counting the fact that, with time, we can imagine using NFC to process identity information virtually and securely: it will be possible to use cell phones with these NFC SIM cards as identity cards or passports.

See Cyril Caillaud interview during the Mobile World Congress 2012

[1] RFID stands for radio frequency identification. This system uses electromagnetic fields to transfer information from a chip embedded in an object to an associated reader.